Real estate body backs Guishan idea with bridge to Lantau
The real estate industry has climbed aboard the Guishan bandwagon, calling for reclamation that it says will house 800,000 and connect to Hong Kong via a bridge to Lantau.
In a report issued this week the Hong Kong Real Property Federation has called for joint development of Guishan and neighbouring islands by Hong Kong and Guangdong governments.
It is echoing calls by pro-government politicians, who have called for the island to be reclaimed for housing, a freight terminal and other commercial uses.
Guishan is about 4 km off Lantau’s western end, almost in the centre of the Pearl River mouth.
It is a part of Zhuhai city but, like other advocates. the federation calls for it to be leased to Hong Kong in the same way that Hengqin island on the west bank of the estuary is leased to Macau.
The HKRPF study proposes reclaiming Guishan and neighbouring clusters to the east and west, creating a total of 70 sq km that can house 800,000 people.
As with other advocate, it claims the island will be only a 30-minute ferry ride to Central or Tsim Sha Tsui, both roughly 40 km away. The current 15 km trip between Mui Wo and Central is 30 minutes.
The report says Guishan is the “centre of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” and is a logical site to re-house the Kwai Chung container terminal, backed by new road and railway connections to Lantau Island.
In a reprise of the ‘super-prison’ idea from the early 2000s, it also recommends shifting Hong Kong jails to Guishan and the current sites used for housing.
The group believes Dazhizhou and Xiaozhizhou islands to the southeast can become sites of “cultural innovation” and education, and Qingzhou and Sanjiaoshan to west for “technology and innovation.”
“Guishan Island is the best place to start if we want to develop new industries, attract global talents, improve the living environment of people, and to build greater industrial zones and industrial chains,” it said.
Passive HK govt waiting to hear from Beijing on new Lantau reclamation
The Hong Kong government has taken a passive stance toward calls for a huge reclamation off south Lantau, with Development Secretary Michael Wong saying it won’t commit either way without a “concrete proposal.”
Replying to a Legco question from pro-government legislator Alice Mak last week, Wong said he was aware of discussions about creating land for Hong Kong through reclamation in mainland China waters.
But he said the government would not take a position on suggestions – mostly from DAB politicians – to reclaim land around the island of Guishan, in mainland waters about 5km off Lantau’s most southerly point.
“In the absence of a more concrete proposal, the government is not in a position to make specific response at the moment,” Wong said.
The Guishan scheme is reportedly under consideration by Beijing as a means of adding to the land supply and helping kick-start the Hong Kong economy.
But Wong’s reply suggests that the government is either waiting for mainland officials to come up with a proposal, or that it would not make any move until given some direction by Beijing.
Wong adds that the government is open to “suggestions that could help relieve the land shortage,” but also makes it clear that it has no thought of taking action itself.
This continues a pattern seen in other major public works such as the HK$119 billion HK-Macau bridge, the HK$83 billion West Kowloon rail terminus and the HK$624 billion Lantau Tomorrow Vision, all driven strongly by Beijing.
The Guishan reclamation scheme was raised by DAB members during the recent NPC session in Beijing.
Pro-Beijing politicians and others since offered multiple ideas on how Guishan could be developed.
At a recent roundtable discussion, Leung Che-cheung, Legco member for New Territories West, which includes Lantau, pointed out that the unpopular Lantau Tomorrow scheme has not even been funded and would take at least a decade to complete, Ming Pao reported.
He said Guishan could provide 1,000 hectares of land, enough to accommodate 200,000 households and house new industries.
Tony Tse, the Legco member for the architecture sector, said Guishan could be a site for public housing and university facilities and prisons. Its position in the centre of the Greater Bay Area meant the Kwai Chung container terminal could be relocated there.
Despite its location far from any urban area, Guishan advocates have not spent much time discussing transport arrangements.
Leung said the island would be just “20 minutes” away from Central by high-speed ferry. He also called for construction of a connecting bridge from Guishan to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, 20km away.
Govt has plans for another huge Lantau reclamation
The central government is reported to be planning another massive reclamation project near Lantau, this time on Guishan Island off the island’s southern tip.
Officials are studying the feasibility of creating an artificial island around Guishan and leasing it to Hong Kong for public housing, HK01 reported this week, quoting unnamed pro-government sources.
The idea was put forward by DAB members of the Hong Kong delegation to China’s ‘two sessions’ last month, although it was originally proposed by Regina Ip’s New People’s Party in 2018.
It is one of a number of proposals being considered by communist party leaders to “support Hong Kong” after the implementation of the national security law, sources told HK01.
Those backing the idea believe the area west of lightly-inhabited Guishan is shallow water and suitable for reclamation, HK01 said.
“According to preliminary estimates, the shallow water area can provide at least an additional 1,000 hectares of land, which is sufficient for large-scale planning and development. If 20% of the land is used for residential purposes, it will provide 160,000 to 200,000 units”
The island lies about 2km southwest of Fan Lau, Lantau’s most southern point, and belongs to to Zhuhai city.
The DAB proposal suggests adopting the ‘Hengqin model,’ referring to a Macau real estate project on an island leased from the Zhuhai government.
Regina Ip told HK01 she hadn’t heard of the central government interest in Guishan, but says she had told mainland officials that it was a better idea than the Lantau Tomorrow Vision (LTV) scheme in Hong Kong central waters.
It is a much more modest proposal than the 1700-hectare LTV, the biggest project in Hong Kong’s history. It encompasses public and private housing and a new central business district and would connect with Hong Kong Island and the Shenzhen border by freeway and rail connections.
By contrast, the Guishan backers envisage connecting to Central by a “30 to 45 minute” ferry ride.
But that raises the spectre of another Tin Shui Wai, the remote new town in northwest New Territories plagued by unemployment and other social problems because of its distance from services and jobs.
The LTV scheme is estimated to cost HK$624 billion for the first 1200ha- stage alone. Legco is yet to approve a government request for HK$550 million for a feasibility study.